Lesbian Minor Cinema

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Publication Date

Winter 2008

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This essay reframes the question of the relative paucity of lesbian feature films by looking at works that deploy a certain ‘poverty’ - in terms of means of production or aesthetic approach – in order to deflect audience demand for familiar stories, happy endings, repeatable pleasures, identity assurances. Although such practices do not and should not circumscribe the field of audiovisual work by and about lesbians, they enact the intersection of authorship and audience, form and subject matter, and desire and identification in crucial ways. Chantal Akerman's Portrait of a Young Girl at the End of the 60s in Brussels (1994) and Sadie Benning's Flat Is Beautiful (1998), in their length, mode, spare formal language and thematic concern with the liminal sexual and gender identities of their young female protagonists, actively engage the process of exclusion by the mainstream and suggest the appellation ‘minor cinema’. The concept of lesbian minor cinema draws on Deleuze and Guattari's notion of minor literature and Alison Butler's modification of their work in the context of women's cinema. Exemplifying the ‘collective enunciation’, relative poverty of means, and political potential that characterizes the minor, lesbian work that deals with girlhood also addresses the ‘minor’ as a subject of sexuality.